by David Swanson


The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) held a first-time, one-day, little publicized event last September that allowed people to turn in their extra prescription drugs. The DEA reports collecting 242,000 pounds or 121 tons. A second such day was held in April with 376,593 pounds or 188 tons of pills collected. This is the stuff nobody wants and is willing to hand in to the government. This is not the amount that’s out in circulation. That amount is no doubt in proportion to the roaring flood of television ads for the stuff. “More Americans currently abuse prescription drugs,” says the DEA, “than the number of those using cocaine, hallucinogens, and heroin combined. . . . [I]ndividuals that abuse prescription drugs often obtained them from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet.” And that’s just the users said to be abusing.

Two years ago, a study found that “the number of Americans taking antidepressants doubled to 10.1 percent of the population in 2005 compared with 1996, increasing across income and age groups.” One year earlier, another study had found that close to 10 percent of men and women in America were taking drugs to combat depression, and that 11 percent of women were taking antidepressants.”

Author and clinical psychologist Bruce Levine tells me this may be even worse than it sounds. “If you are around certain populations,” Levine says, “that 10 percent stat seems very low, especially among healthcare professionals and college students.” College students? I can remember them getting pretty thoughtful and committed in times past. “And that 10 percent,” Levine adds, “only includes the ‘official antidepressants’ such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro, Wellbutrin, Effexor, etc. This stat doesn’t include people using ADHD drugs such as Ritalin, Adderall, etc. to stimulate themselves.”

Levine said he’s counseling a young man who is supplementing his income by selling ADHD psychostimulant drugs to his fellow college students. He gets the best price around final exam time. “He told me, ‘Bruce, you’ve got to do better improving the self-esteem of these young kids who you are counseling.’ Why, I ask him, why do you care? ‘Well,’ he says, ‘these little brats who are getting their freebie prescription Addies feel so crappie about themselves that they are giving away their Addies to their older brothers for free just so they will hang out with them, and all those freebie Addies on the market are driving price down for me.”

Levine stresses that Adderall, like nicotine or caffeine or cocaine, provides a buzz that antidepressants do not. In fact, he points out, the so-called antidepressant drugs make people twice as likely to commit suicide. Levine concedes that some people swear antidepressants have saved their lives, but points out that people will say that about a placebo as well. The evidence, Levine says, shows antidepressants working no better than a placebo at lifting people out of depression.

David Swanson is the author of “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at

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